Softball preps for fall season

Softball is the only team sport in town for the upcoming fall season, and the numbers are reflecting that.
The team, along with boys golf and cross country, are the only sports having their seasons in the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
With volleyball moved to the spring, softball coach Morgan Spencer reported Monday before the first official practice that it appeared the program will gain 10 players for this season, swelling its ranks to 24.
“I look forward to the competitiveness in practice,” Spencer said. “It will help jumpstart what could be a good season for us.”
The coach also has a new assistant in Giovanny Rodriguez, who graduated this year from YHS, and a leader on the baseball team during his playing days.
They welcomed 16 to practice on Monday, with the remaining eight expected to show up in the coming days.
Spencer already had 14 signed up for softball, nearly all veterans of the program. Then CHSAA released its state-approved modified schedule for 2020-21 last week. That led to an influx of more players. (Cross country likely will experience more participation as well, though the Pioneer does not have confirmation for that yet. Boys golf coach Benjamin Weathers reported that four more joined the team after the football schedule was moved to the spring.)
Spencer was asked if there would be any awkwardness, especially since most of the newcomers are volleyball players that likely will return to that sport if a normal schedule resumes next school year.
“No,” she said, “they’re good kids and they’re willing to adapt…there might be some girls that decide they want to stick around (beyond this season).”
Spencer said she was not sure what would happen with the softball season until the moment CHSAA announced a couple of weeks ago that it would proceed in the fall sports slot.
“I was pretty excited,” she said, “mostly because the kids get to do something.”
However, there are several rules and restrictions in place. The regular season has been shortened to 16 games. There are the sanitizing and social distancing protocols, coaches wear masks, players not in the field wear masks, no sharing of equipment, spacing of water bottles, and players must spread out along the fence line when their team is up to bat.
“I think it’s doable,” Spencer said. “It’s more of an inconvenience for some certain things, but it’s doable.”
Another rule is only 12 players get to suit up for a game, which is somewhat ironic in a season in which the program has so many.
Spencer noted that for home doubleheaders, she can suit up different players for each game. “It’s the away games that will be tougher because we can take only 12 with us. I wish we could take a couple more. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have 15 or 16 girls.
She said the school is in the process of trying to line up some junior varsity games in order to get more players some game action. Those games have not been confirmed yet.
The Indians open their season with a twin bill at Fort Lupton on August 22. Because of the COVID-19 rules, tournaments in the Greeley area and Brush were taken off the schedule. The Indians will play eight doubleheaders for their 16 games.
“I miss the tournaments, but grateful we get to see teams like Faith Christian and Chase County,” Spencer said.
They also have their regular Class 3A District 4 games against Wray, Holyoke, Burlington and Limon. released the softball preseason polls earlier this week, and Limon was ranked at No. 5.
Spencer said the Badgers lost some key players from last year but still expects them to be plenty tough. Still, she said she thought the league would be a little more wide open in 2020.
Look for more on the Indians next week as they approach their season opener.